Alzheimer`s Disease/step mother

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Question
My step mother seems to be in the early stages of dementia, although there has been no diagnosis. One symptom is that she is making irrational accusations against me. How should I deal with this?

She and my dad have been married almost 20 years, after the deaths of their fist spouses. She and I got along really well most of that time, and I was thrilled that my dad found someone to be happy with. Now she is accusing me of things like stealing from them or trying to "sell the house out from under" them. My dad's mind is OK but he is physically frail and just not up to dealing with this.

Should I just ignore it? Try to reason with her (For example ask why I would do something like that)? Or is there something else I should be doing? I know she needs to go in for a full evaluation, but I live more than 200 miles away and have little influence over things like that.

Thanks,

Jo

Answer
Hi Jo-
I'm sorry to hear about the issues that are arising with your stepmother.  The symptoms do seem like the kind of behavior that frequently arises with persons who have AD.  Yes, you should strongly encourage your Dad to have her evaluated and stress that if the AD diagnosis is confirmed she could go on medication, both for the AD and also for her agitation/paranoid type symptoms.
On a personal level, I can tell you that I went through the same thing with my wife when we were both in our fifties. I found that it just didn't help to disagree with her even if her accusations were implausible. Try reminding yourself that your stepmother has a problem that you really can't do anything to change.  When she starts her accusations, try to change the subject or redirect the conversation.  Disagreeing directly won't help.
I would also encourage you to contact your local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association to get more information and read about the disease.  Finally, try to be there for your Dad.  Be in contact more frequently and give him an opportunity to talk about what is going on.
Good luck.  

Alzheimer`s Disease

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Peter Winkler

Expertise

I can answer questions regarding the care of persons with Alzheimer's Disease. I have no medical degree and I am not qualified to answer questions of a medical nature.

Experience

I was the spouse and primary caretaker of my wife, who was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 53. I initially cared for her at home, but after her illness progressed, I placed her in a long term care facility. A year later, I found a nursing home for her and she spent almost 10 years there before she passed away.

Education/Credentials
I have an MSW (Master's in Social Work) degree.

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